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Whycapital punishment should be abolished

Capitalpunishment has been a controversial issue for many centuries. Itinvolves the use of legal authority to kill convicted suspects as apunishment for their engagement in heinous crimes (Brook 1). Capitalpunishment, also referred to as the death penalty, has receivedsupport and criticism in equal measures. Although opponents andproponents of the capital punishment support their ideas with validarguments, it is evident that the death penalty does not help thejudicial system to achieve the objectives of deterring crime andadministering justice to victims as well as suspects.


Thepossibility of executing the wrong people is one of the key factorsthat justify the need to abolish the capital punishment. The judicialsystem relies on the contributions made by different stakeholders(including the police, witnesses, suspects, and judges) to a givencase, but all of them are capable of making human error. Hancestated, “Thenation’s judicial system is based on participation from theparties, witnesses, judges, jurors, and others, any one of whom iscapable of human error” (p. 5).Although the court ruling is always considered to be final andobjective, the truth of the matter is that the decision is comprisedof the opinion of the judges that is based on the witnesses anddefenses presented within the courtroom. The chances of making humanerror that could lead to the execution of innocent people have beenconfirmed by DAN evidence. Studies have shown that the use of DANevidence, which is 99 % accurate, has resulted in exoneration of 300convicts since 1973 (Hance 5). Further investigations revealed thatthe exonerated people were convicted on the basis of false witness,wrong forensic investigation results, and poor legal representation.For example, Angel Gonzalez was misidentified by a rape victim andarrested in 1994. The police misguided him into signing a falseconfession, but he consistently informed that court that he wasinnocent. It was not until March 10, 2015, when the court used theDNA evidence to exonerate him and overturn the death sentence thatwas issued earlier (Innocent Project 1). This implies that the U.S.could be executing hundreds of innocent people.

Costbenefit analysis

Thedeath penalty is considered to be one of the most expensive methodsthat the judiciary uses to punish offenders. The cost benefitanalysis of the capital punishment is based on a comparison betweencases where the death penalty was issued and litigation that wereeligible for a similar decision, but the judges selected alternativemethods of punishing the suspects. For example, a study conducted inthe state of Maryland indicated that a single murder case cost onemillion dollar, including the post-incarceration expenses (Roman 2).Roman stated, “Capital eligible cases where prosecutors filednotice that they would seek the death penalty, but where no deathpenalty was imposed cost almost $ 700,000 more than cases whereprosecutors could have-but did not-seek the death penalty” (p. 2).Cases for which the death penalty was issued and implemented costabout $ 1.8 million (Roman 2). In total the state of Maryland lossabout $ 186 million each year in the process of prosecuting andexecuting suspects on death row. The case study of Maryland indicatesthat the taxpayers loss a lot of money, when the judicial systeminsist on using the death penalty to administer justice in caseswhere alternative strategies could be equally effective in deterringcrime.

Thedeath penalty is ineffective in preventing crime in the society

Theprimary goal of any penalty that is given by the judicial system tosuspects is to deter crime and enhance safety in the society.However, the death penalty does not help the judicial systemaccomplish this goal. Most of the criminals who deserve the deathpenalty are not caught and a few of those who are arrested take along time before they can receive the judgment. Delayed judgment,which is attributed to a large number of appeals, reduces thecapacity of the criminals to establish the connection between theircriminal activities and the penalty. Donohue stated, “Indeed,executions are so rare and appeals so lengthy that it is not evenclear that being sentenced to death reduces the life expectancy of acriminal (p. 4)”. This has been confirmed by empirical studiesindicating that there is no statistically significant difference incrime rates between states that have abolished the death penalty andthose that use it to-date. For an instant, a study of jurisdictionsthat apply and those that do not use the death penalty in Canada andthe U.S. resulted in a conclusion that heinous crimes (such asmurder) follow virtually similar paths in all states (Donohue 3).This implies that the net effect of capital punishment in deterringcrime is statistically insignificant.

Theshortage of attorneys for death row

Theprocess of administration of justice requires adequate representationby qualified lawyers in order to ensure that both the suspects andthe victim get their rights. However, the U.S. and the world ingeneral experience a chronic shortage of attorneys who have theknowledge and experience to deal with the death row cases. Researchshows that the U.S. has less than 100 attorneys per state who canhandle capital cases (Hance 4). This shortage is attributed toseveral factors, including the high level of knowledge that isrequired to deal with complex legal matters. The outcome of thisshortage is delayed judgment and the high cost of representation,which results from a low supply, coupled with a high demand for deathrow attorneys.


Theproponents of the capital punishment hold that death penalty is aneffective tool that is used to deter heinous crime. Subscribers tothis school of thought believe that potential criminals are able toevaluate their actions when they understand that they could subjectthem to the risk of death row. However, studies have shown thatcapital punishment can only deter an insignificant percentage ofheinous crime (Hance 6). This is because it is only a few potentialcriminals who receive news about death rows and a small number ofthem are involved in crimes that require prior planning.

Inaddition, the proponents of death penalty hold that this could be theonly way that the judicial system could administer justice to victimsof serious crimes, such as murder. Victims and their families find itunbearable to think that the murderer of their loved ones will spendlife in a comfortable cell with frequent visits by friends andrelatives. When explaining the experience of the sister of a 6-yearold victim of murder, Hance stated, ”Just the thought of enjoyingfamily visits in prison bothered them” (p. 7). The majority of therelatives of the victims feel relieved when the murderer has beenkilled under the death penalty law. However, the frequent appealsinvolved in death row reopen their wounds, which is an injustice tothe affected families.


Thedeath penalty has merits and demerits, but it is evident that itfails to help the judicial system to achieve the objectives ofcorrecting criminals and deterring crimes. Cases that potentiallylead to death penalty take a long time before the final decision canbe made, which limits the capacity of criminals to establish the linkbetween their actions and the court ruling. In addition, the use ofDNA evidence has resulted in the exoneration of hundreds of convictsof death row, which is an indication of the fact that the judicialsystem could be killing innocent people. Therefore, the stakeholdersin the judicial system should abolish capital punishment and look foralternative correction methods.


Brook,D. Kill the death penalty: 10 arguments against capital punishment.CommonDreams.15 July. 2015. Web. 19 July 2016.

Donohue,J. &amp Wolfers, J. Thedeath penalty: No evidence for deterrence.Berkeley: Berkeley Electronic Press, 2013. Print.

Hance,S., Kay, D., Larson, J. and Lewis, V. “Death of the death penalty?An examination of California’s capital punishment system”.Journalof Legal Issues and Cases n Business1 (2013): 1-10. Print.

InnocentProject. Angel Gonzalez: Time served, 20 years. InnocentProject.2016. Web. 22 July 2016.

Roman,K. Costsof the death penalty.Delaware: Judiciary Committee, 2013. Print.